The fastest way to get a solid bottom line is to deliver results on the top line. Which means there’s nothing more urgent — or these days, more trying — than making the sale. Here’s what it takes. Edited

Nothing happens in business unless and until someone sells something. I learned how to sell at the Steak and Ale Restaurant, in South Bend, Indiana. Working my way through college as a waitress, I became really good at adapting my style to the different personalities of my customers.

The best salespeople see things through their customers’ eyes, modify their styles to their customers’ chemistry, and pull together their offering to meet their customers’ needs. Ten years ago, our customers were focused on technology. Today, technology performance has to be translated into improving patient outcomes, enhancing quality, and reducing costs. It’s a more subtle conversation. So the biggest challenge for salespeople is to get quality time in front of their customers.

But being in front of the customer doesn’t help if you do all the talking. My father used to say, “Many a sale was lost from the jawbone of an ass.” What Dad said then applies today.

Beth Klein began her 20-plus-year career with GE Medical Systems in sales. She now is responsible for driving integration among all GE businesses that call on healthcare customers.


Joseph Abruzzese
President, Advertising Sales
Discovery Networks, U.S.
New York, New York

I’ve been in the network business for 31 years and was head of CBS Television Network’s sales for the past 10. In selling commercial time, integrity means everything. About 80 percent of our business comes from the same people every year, so selling is about the strength of your relationships. In the end, the honest broker really does win.

One of the heads of sales at a rival network was recently quoted as saying that salesmen don’t have much of a conscience. That’s a total violation of logic. Ask Nancy Smith at American Express, Tony Ponturo at Budweiser, or Mike Browner at General Motors. If one of those clients told me that one of my salespeople has no conscience, I’d fire that person. In a business based on relationships, when our people sell CBS Television Network, they are really selling their own integrity and creativity.

Joseph Abruzzese oversees all of Discovery Networks’ U.S. domestic channels and properties.